All That Paradise Allows by Adam Bell on the Aperture Blog

reviews July 18th, 2017

All That Paradise Allows

In Crimea and the Caribbean, Nicholas Muellner’s new photobook is a tropical gothic of seduction and violence.

By Adam Bell

Nicholas Muellner, Untitled, from In Most Tides an Island, 2017 Courtesy the artist

Nicholas Muellner, Untitled, from In Most Tides an Island, 2017
Courtesy the artist

Gracefully marrying image and text, Nicholas Muellner’s photobook In Most Tides an Island(2017) is a poignant meditation on loneliness, love, and isolation in our contemporary world. Structured in twelve chapters, the book tells two parallel but related stories: the real-life struggles of closeted, gay men in provincial Russia and Ukraine, yearning for a connection and love they can’t openly express; and the invented life of a solitary woman on a Caribbean island. Equal parts document, diary, and fictional invention, In Most Tides an Island defies easy categorization. Like Muellner’s previous books—The Amnesia Pavilions (2011) and The Photograph Commands Indifference (2009)—the work deftly combines image and text into a unique form, while, at the same time, poetically questioning the limits of each. The book’s parallel stories ultimately converge to offer a portrait of the heartrending reality of our disconnected, yet networked lives.

Nicholas Muellner, Untitled, from In Most Tides an Island, 2017 Courtesy the artist

Nicholas Muellner, Untitled, from In Most Tides an Island, 2017
Courtesy the artist

Adam Bell: You describe yourself as an artist who “operates at the intersection of photography and writing.” How did you come to this relationship and how do you see it working in In Most Tides an Island?

Nicholas Muellner: I came to that intersection in my work by way of a circle: it’s precisely where I started. Long before I knew myself as an artist, I loved following threads of language, and I loved making pictures. They were better places to live than inside myself—richer, safer, more satisfying. Simultaneously, and for as long as I can remember, I have been both thrilled and heartbroken by the inviolable separateness of each human consciousness, no matter the physical or emotional proximity. For me, these facts were inseparable. Words and images became like two lovers lying next to each other in bed who can never know the other’s mind. And, at some point, without a formal declaration, I made it my life’s work—what an absurd claim!—to reconcile those two fraught lovers, by making a romance of the space between them.

That’s a lie. My work never hopes to reconcile language and image. More accurately, it deploys their unbridgeable autonomies as both a means and a metaphor. In the new book, the reticence and stillness of the photographs often amplifies the loneliness and repression of the written narratives. Other times, the emotion of an image confesses what cannot be expressed in words. The language and the photographs collapse into disjunctive double exposures and create a broken double vision, moving in and out of sensory alignment.

For the full review and text, please visit the Aperture Blog here